Forest Green Rovers, in Gloucestershire, England, is the greenest football club in the world. Not to mention that it’s the first and only vegan football club, and the first to be certified as carbon neutral by the United Nations.
“From solar panels and electric vehicle charging points at The New Lawn to our vegan menu, we are proving that sports clubs can lead the fight against climate change”.
Their stadium, the New Lawn, might look like any other football stadium, they say – but here’s what they do differently:
- The entire club is powered by 100% green energy from Ecotricity, some of which is generated by solar panels on the stadium roof and the solar tracker at the ground entrance.
- They play on sustainable grass, free from pesticides and weed killers, and they cut the grass with a GPS-directed, solar-powered lawnmower. Their groundskeeper sprinkles Scottish sea algae and rips out weeds by hand.
- They collect rainwater that lands on the stadium and use it to irrigate the pitch rather than using mains water.
- They recommend sustainable travel to all games and provide electric car charge points at The New Lawn.
- The players’ jerseys are made from discarded coffee grounds and recycled plastic, not plastic.
- The club has been measuring its carbon footprint since 2011, and between the 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons, they reduced it by nearly 30%.
They have been a vegan football club since 2015, and in 2017, were certified with the Vegan Trademark by the The Vegan Society.. “On match days, we serve our award-winning Q Pies, delicious plant-based burgers, spicy pasties, vegan fajitas and plenty more, all made using locally sourced ingredients.
Now they’re working to build Eco Park, which will be the world’s greenest football stadium. It will be made entirely from wood and will be surrounded by parkland containing 500 trees and 1.8km of hedgerows. They also plan to build a new training complex that will bring together the youth, academy, women’s and first team.
And they plan to leave a positive legacy in their former home – The New Lawn. “In our planning application, we made a commitment to having high quality, low carbon housing built where The New Lawn currently stands. The building fabric, site design and energy use of the development will be centred around sustainability, and it will include open spaces and greenery, which are beneficial to everyone.”
“The site will be well connected to the local area via public transport, and will have electric car and bike charging points. The buildings will be designed in keeping with community’s existing architectural character. It will provide much-needed new homes in Gloucestershire, with a high proportion of affordable housing included.”
“Of course, the stereotype is that soccer fans wouldn’t be receptive to this at all, but this made it all the more compelling to me,” club chairman Dale Vince told Reasons to be Cheerful. “People told me I’d be killing the club, and nobody would come. I thought to myself, that means we’d be taking our message, our work in sustainability, to a new audience, one that’s relatively untouched by this kind of stuff, the world of soccer fans. Soccer gives us a fantastic platform to promote sustainability.”
Vince, who first arrived in Stroud in the 1990s, runs a renewable energy company, Ecotricity, which is one of Stroud’s biggest employers with 700 workers.
“Even the fizz in the carbonated drinks is funneled directly from the CO2-capturing facility on the stadium roof, a new venture from Vince who also uses the CO2 to make carbon-negative diamonds, reports Reasons to be Cheerful. “It fits perfectly with our message that living a green life isn’t about giving stuff up. Whether it’s burgers, cars, soccer, or even diamonds, it’s about doing it in a different way.”
The club’s catering service, the Little Green Devils, has won awards for its vegan pies and serves 3,000 school meals outside the stadium every day. FIFA and several soccer clubs have sent representatives to learn how to move their stadiums and kitchens toward carbon neutrality.
Since switching to vegan food and other climate-friendly routines, the club has started winning and was promoted to League Two in 2017. The number of visitors has quadrupled, the amount of food sold at the stadium has quintupled, and the club now has 100 fan clubs in 20 countries.
Vince believes that he not only created a new kind of soccer club, but “a new kind of soccer fan. These people bond with the club because of our stance on the environment.”
Forest Green Rovers website
Meet the World’s First Carbon-Neutral Soccer Club. Reasons to be Cheerful. Sep. 14, 2021
Green Galatasaray: Turkish football giant saves almost €400,000 from its solar roof. Euronews green, Oct. 3, 2022